by Greg Mayer
John van Wyhe of the National University of Singapore, and founder and chief editor of the essential Darwin Online and Wallace Online websites, has just published a new book on Wallace, Dispelling the Darkness: Voyage in the Malay Archipelago and the Discovery of Evolution by Wallace and Darwin (World Scientific Publishing, Singapore). It is now available in the US, and will be available in the UK next month.
“The facts of variability, of the struggle for existence, of adaptation to conditions, were notorious enough; but none of us had suspected that the road to the heart of the species problem lay through them, until Darwin and Wallace dispelled the darkness.” (T.H. Huxley, 1887 [emphasis added]). Charles Darwin remains one of the most famous scientists in history. His life and work have been intensively investigated by historians for decades. In comparison, the other man to conceive of evolution by natural selection is comparatively forgotten – Alfred Russel Wallace. This book is based on the most thorough research programme ever conducted on Wallace. There are many surprises. As he travelled from island to island collecting vast numbers of exotic birds and insects, his ideas about species gradually evolved. This book reveals for the first time how Wallace solved one of the greatest mysteries of life on Earth.
We’ve noted John’s work several times here at WEIT, which In addition to his invaluable work of editing and compilation at the Darwin and Wallace websites, includes writing several important historical studies of evolutionary biology, including his paper with Kees Rookmaker on the transmittal of Wallace’s “Ternate paper”, which Jerry discussed here at WEIT. This book is his most important work to date, and he says he’s “very excited about it as it radically rewrites the whole story.” I’m certainly looking forward to reading it.
It’s very appropriate that the book be published in the Wallace Centennial Year.
(For readers in the UK, you may well want to order it now, because the UK price is substantially higher than the US price, but a prepublication offer on amazon.uk makes it about the same as the US price.)